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A-Rod still has a lot to protect

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Michael Hunt
February 11, 2009

When the Alex Rodriguez story broke a few days ago, his immediate reaction wasn’t exactly what a workaday person wanted to hear. “Talk to the union,” said the guy who makes $27.5 million a year to play baseball.


But you give Rodriquez that. It was a gotcha moment on a sensitive topic that he had reason to believe would never see the light of day.


So how much credit should you give him now for, uh, coming clean about his steroid use from 2001 to 2003 with the Texas Rangers?


Not much. After all, A-Rod has a lot to protect. For one, his image in New York, the endorsement capital of the free world. A $275 million contract with nine seasons to go, for another. And his long-term legacy, should the man with 552 home runs eventually encroach upon what used to be a hallowed record for baseball, the one soiled a couple of years ago by a guy who might go to prison.


Really, how much credibility does Rodriquez have when he lied on network TV a year ago? He did the expedient thing Tuesday by spreading his mea culpas the breadth of the planet, likely because he saw what the silent treatment and/or denials did for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and, especially, Mark McGwire.


Does anyone know for sure whether A-Rod was clean all this time with the Yankees? This renewed cloud cast by maybe the game’s best player is raining on baseball once more as it prepares to go to another spring training with more questions than answers about its Steroid Era.


What another fine mess for Bud Selig and his game. Just when he thought he was out, they’re pulling him back in.


For the last few springs, Selig made the rounds to spread his gospel of progress against the cheaters. And, yes, baseball has made advancements with its drug problem. A little late after all the money that rolled in during the pumped-up ’90s, but real progress nonetheless. Getting amphetamines out of the clubhouse was big. So is the testing policy, as long as it stays no more than a half-step behind the innovations to circumvent detection.


But now, there is another can of escaping worms for the commish to worry about.


Rodriguez’s name was on a list of 104 players who tested positive for steroids in 2003, before they were banned. That the so-called survey, carried out to determine whether baseball should have further testing, was supposed to remain anonymous is less troubling than the number of players who came up positive. The players knew drug test was coming, and still that many failed. Again, it goes to the depth of the problem that tainted the game for too long.


If A-Rod was exposed, more names will no doubt emerge before opening day. How does baseball deal with this all over again? Even if Rodriguez did not answer important questions, like where he got the steroids, and even if his overall credibility remains at issue, those who find themselves in his position need to follow his lead with even more candor.


The only way to move forward is with accountability from all parties that conspired to make a sham of the world’s greatest game. Some things, like the record book, are irrevocably trashed. It’s hard to see how an asterisk would help Roger Maris and Henry Aaron now.


Likewise, baseball can never eradicate the cartoonish Hans-and-Franz era driven by big money or the revelations to come. But it can begin to heal with accountability. A-Rod was a start. Unlike some players he will be forgiven, but he will also be a distressing part of the game that should never be forgotten.



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